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Aces coach Bill Laimbeer faces former team Liberty

Updated June 21, 2018 - 6:39 pm

Bill Laimbeer lives in the Las Vegas Valley.

Some of his DNA is still in New York City.

Laimbeer and the Aces will play the New York Liberty, the team Laimbeer coached from 2013 to 2017 before leaving for Las Vegas, at 7 p.m. Friday at Mandalay Bay Events Center.

The Aces won at New York 78-63 on June 13, giving Laimbeer an intimate look at the club he helped turn into an Eastern Conference contender.

“They run a lot of the same stuff we did last year,” he said. “They’ve made a couple of adjustments, added a couple of things … We’re familiar with their stuff, and they’re familiar with our stuff.”

Laimbeer inherited a Liberty roster devoid of marquee talent. Within two years, though, the Liberty were among the WNBA’s best teams, mainly because of 6-foot-4-inch center Tina Charles, one of the league’s most dominant inside-out players.

Laimbeer added some quality guards around Charles, and the Liberty became one of the league’s best teams from 2015 to 2017.

Charles said Wednesday on a conference call that Laimbeer helped advance her career.

“He just always made sure for me that I would stay engaged in the game,” Charlessaid. “You really appreciate that … You want that line of communication.”

Said Laimbeer: “We built a team of depth. They have a lot of depth on that ballclub, especially at the guard position.”

Laimbeer turned over coaching duties to longtime assistant Katie Smith, and the Liberty have struggled to a 4-6 start.

“She really couldn’t get any more from me. She soaked it all in,” Laimbeer said. “It was time to give her an opportunity. She was ready. I’m glad she got that.”

Jefferson returns to practice

Aces point guard Moriah Jefferson joined her teammates for practice Thursday for the first time this season. She had surgery on her right knee in September and has spent the past several months rehabilitating.

“Some things felt weird because I haven’t done them in about eight months,” she said. “But it felt good.”

Laimbeer said he’s hoping Jefferson can return to the lineup in early July.

“We didn’t really run a hard practice today,” he said. “I think she’s ready to go. We’re not going to play her right now. We’re going to give her a few practices, make sure she’s comfortable mentally.”

More Aces: Follow all of our Aces coverage online at reviewjournal.com/aces and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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